August 2016 – We spent three nights in DC after arriving from Baltimore via Amtrak into Union Station. The train was comfy and quick, and the station was beautiful. We took the metro from the station to the nearest stop to our hotel. We had about a half mile walk to our Dupont Circle hotel and were very glad to drop off our bags once we got there. The city was quite a bit more humid and hot than we expected, even coming from Florida. The heat index was 115 during most of our days there, and our primary means of transportation was walking.
After dropping off our bags, we had a quick lunch at Potbelly’s. I’ve seen this sandwich shop in multiple
large cities, including New York and Chicago. However, the shop seems to have somewhat odd hours and has never been open before when we happened upon it. The sandwiches were good and reasonably priced. After lunch, we walked about two and half miles to the National Zoo. The zoo is part of the Smithsonian, so we had pretty high expectations. We were not impressed. Several portions of the zoo were closed. A few of the animals appeared to have some sort of eye infections, and the habitats were not the best. The animals did not appear to have as much room as they should, and their homes were not climate controlled to be appropriate for their natural habitat. The most disappointing part came near the end of our visit, on one of the last sections: the pandas. There was a camera installed to capture a panda in it’s cell (it resembled a prison cell to me). It was a small, empty, concrete area, and the panda was lying on its back playing with
something that looked like a stem of a plant. We saw the camera footage again later on in our trip in another Smithsonian museum, and the panda was still sad and bored looking in its little cell.
After walking around the zoo for a couple of hours in the heat, we decided to take the metro to see some of the memorials and stay until the sun set. On our way to the metro, however, we saw a sign for the National Cathedral and took a detour. This had actually been on my list of
things to see, but it had not been near the top and would have easily been forgotten if we had not seen the sign. We decided to check it out and walked toward it.
The building was quite astonishing as it came into view. The building is magnificent. Unfortunately, the front of the building is under restoration currently due to damage from an earthquake in 2011, but the rest of the building is very impressive. Admission was $5 per person, but it was well worth it. The building is highly detailed on the inside, has many beautiful stained glass windows, and has an observation deck. There were only a few people in the building when we visited, so it was nice and quiet. There were some great opportunities for panoramic photos, and the observation deck allowed for a great view of the city. We were able to see the seats designated for members of the Senate and US House. Several notable people, including Helen Keller, rest in the Cathedral, but we were not able to see those spots because they were gated off (apparently there are plaques to designate these areas, but they weren’t open to the public that day).
We spent a couple of hours exploring the Cathedral and the gardens outside. Afterwards, we began retracing our
steps to the metro station and stopped for a quick dinner just outside it. The sun was setting, so it was dark by the time we stopped at the station closest to the White House.
The White House is very well lit at night and looks quite a bit different than it does during the daytime, as do several of the monuments. We spent a few minutes in front of it and then walked up the street
to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The building is pretty impressive at night.
After the Eisenhower Building, we continued on past the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. There were quite a few people hanging out at the memorial, but it was less crowded than it usually is during the daytime. The reflecting pool looked great in the dark with the reflections of the lit up memorials nearby and the bright moon overhead.
By this time, the humidity and bugs were getting tiresome, and we had walked nearly fifteen miles for the day. We made World War II Memorial our last stop and then walked the mile back to our hotel. We had an early morning planned for the next day, beginning with a tour of the White House (covered in Part 2).